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GVFS Program Gets Some Advice

Green Valley Fire District’s nurse practitioner program is of great benefit to the community and hugely popular with patients, but to become self-sustaining it needs to be renamed and better marketed.  Those are the conclusions of three students from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management who analyzed the program while working on their MBAs.

Since March 2015, residents have been able to make weekday appointments with a nurse practitioner for non- emergency medical conditions that might otherwise send them to the hospital.  The program helps avoid costly emergency room trips, saves on expenses for the fire district, and takes Medicare, AHCCCS and most insurance plans for the on-site visit.

Currently, nurse practitioner Adrianne O’Brien works 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and sees 30 patients per month, GVFD Chief Chuck Wunder said.  GVFD paid the UA $18,000 to create a business plan for FBUMS or the “Fire Based Urgent Medical Service Program” in August.

On Wednesday, students Ben Subeck, Sam Ferolie and Alex Redburn gave a final presentation to the GVFD board on their results.  According to a survey they conducted, the students found that 58% of Green Valley residents are unaware of the program, but an equal number of residents were interested in it.  They also spoke to several patients who have been visited by one of the nurse practitioners who have filled the position since inception.  “Those who use it, love it,” Subeck said.

The students also compared the service to primary care physicians, urgent care physicians, urgent care and emergency rooms when it comes to out-of-pocket expenses, co-pays, convenience, exposure to other illnesses and same-day services.  FBUMS compared well in most of the categories, Redburn said.  It’s particularly convenient for people with mobility issues.  The chances of people contracting other illnesses are significantly lower in their own homes than in ERs, doctors’ offices and urgent care centers, he said.

As far as out-of-pocket costs, the program cost roughly $374 per visit compared to $83 to $143 for a doctor’s visit, $180 for urgent care, emergency room visit that doesn’t result in a hospitalization.  However, Redburn pointed out the $374 for FBUMS included fixed costs that will decrease once more residents use it.  He also noted it can take days, weeks and months for patients to get in to see their primary care physician.

The students told the board they think the district should change the name of the program to the Nurse Practitioner Response Unit because FBUMS, pronounced F-BUMS, has a negative connotation, Wunder said.  They also recommended a stronger marketing campaign that gets the word out about the program but also emphasizes the program accepts Medicare and insurance, he said.

In an effort to get the program closer to self-sustaining, Wunder said O’Brien no longer responds to calls on her own.  She has been partnered with a paramedic for the last several months so that when she’s not responding to appointments, she is going on regular medical calls.  In addition, O’Brien has become a paramedic, which eliminated the need for another paramedic to be on the payroll, Wunder said.   O’Brien has also been seeing about 15 GVFD employees and their family members for a $5 fee, which also saves the district money in the long run, Wunder said.

The students suggested that in the future, the board ought to consider other revenue streams, such as offering vaccinations, sports physicals, health education and mobile clinics.  Funding could also be sought through government grants, foundations, corporations and nonprofit organizations.

Article by Kim Smith – GV News